5th May 2008

USPTO: Fist-Fighters!

Fist-Fighters As collectors, it’s easy to get down on Mego for failing to further expand the WGSH line. Despite Mego’s then-unprecedented production of 37 unique characters, we wish there were even more!

“Where’s our Flash?” we plead. “Why didn’t Mego make a Green Lantern? Or a Dr. Doom?!” we lament.

As the line started to die around 1977-1978 (no, that’s not a typo), collectors now question why Mego failed to push the envelope in an effort to revitalize the line… especially during that critical period exacerbated by George Lucas’ introduction of “Star Wars” to the Pop Culture lexicon.

In fact, Mego did attempt to ‘flip the script’ at least twice. But neither concept had much of an impact on children of the 1970s. Mego’s final attempt at pumping life into a fading line was the introduction of “Fly-Away Action,” a contraption included with some 12″ WGSH figures, which allowed action figures to traverse a zip line.

Several years earlier, while the Mego’s WGSH line was arguably in its prime, Mego also went outside the proverbial box in developing a brand new body style intended to enhance play-value. Mego introduced the “Fist-Fighting Power Fist” Super-Heroes in 1975.

Fist-Fighters

I love Mego’s submissions to the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), and I have previously discussed this informative documentation. In World’s Greatest Toys, I discuss the Fist-Fighters (page 147) as well as Mego’s dealings with the USPTO (pages 7-9), depicting just one of the four USPTO Fist-Fighter submissions.

Here is Mego’s “Fist-Fighter” submission in its entirety (NB: Click Images to EMBIGGEN toward legibility!):

PAGE 1 and PAGE 2:

USPTO

PAGE 3 and PAGE 4:

USPTO

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posted in Batman, Captain America, Copyrights and Trademarks, Falcon, Green Arrow, Iron Man, Joker, Lizard, Riddler, Robin, Spider-Man, Superman, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

25th February 2008

Mego Bizarro: A Mr. Mxyzptlk Trick?

Bizarro

“Bizarro want make Mego marketing decision today!”

For years, vintage super-hero action figure enthusiasts have engaged in heated-but-healthy discussions surrounding Mego’s decisions regarding the characters included in their magnificent World’s Greatest Super-Heroes line, especially within the wave of World’s Greatest Super-Foes, which gave us Penguin, Joker, Riddler and Mr. Mxyzptlk in 1974.

Mr. Mxyzptlk One of the more controversial figures in the entire line is Mr. Mxyzptlk, particularly since the underutilized DC character ended up being the only 8″ Superman villain Mego ever produced.

Fans may not be crazy about Mr. Mxyzptlk (either the character or the Mego figure), but Mego clearly put a lot of effort into developing Mr. Mxyzptlk, ultimately sculpting two different heads (shown at left) for the character.

Note to collectors: Mego produced the “Smirking” head (far left) first and it is considerably scarcer than the revised version (near left).

I discuss the issue of Mr. Mxyzptlk, in relation to other Super-Foes, in the book, World’s Greatest Toys! (currently in-stock and available for purchase through Amazon.com; Amazon pays me for purchases made through my blog, so I thank you in advance for buying it here).

Here’s a snippet from the Mr. Mxyzptlk chapter of the book, followed by a scan of the spread (starting on page 136, for those reading along):

Collectors question Mego’s decision to produce Mr. Mxyzptlk, a relatively minor character. Mego clearly sought to capitalize on kids’ interest in Superman; the original packages proclaim “Superman’s Arch Enemy” in large type. Still, the character seems an odd choice compared to better-known Superman villains, including Lex Luthor and Brainiac. When pressed for an explanation in a 1998 interview, Neal Kublan offered “The [1978 Richard Donner] film had Lex [Luthor], but the comics had a lot of [Mr.] Mxyzptlk. The comics had a lot of it. And we did Superman before the first film.” A salient point, as Mego’s choice of Superman villain debuted four years before the movie opened.

Mr. Mxyzptlk

On a side note, the snippet above bothers/intrigues me, because my original manuscript cited Bizarro instead of Brainiac. Yet somehow, through myriad edits, Bizarro was replaced with Brainiac. I have no idea how or when this happened. The revision is unfortunate because, even while working on the book, I was aware of the fact that Mego once submitted a fascinating trademark request: Bizarro

Following is Mego’s canceled USPTO submission, along with a clever “Superfriends” custom:

Bizarro

Bizarro

As referenced in my recent Mego copyright and trademark Blog, Webbed-Hand Aquaman: Search for Atlantis?, which details a fleeting interest in all-things aquatic, Mego apparently also discussed the idea of a World’s Greatest Super-Hero Bizarro figure, possibly on several occasions. At least once during the 1977/1978 production meetings documented in Brian Heiler’s amazing interview with Mego artist Vinny Baiera, Mego considered expanding the original wave of four Super-Foes… as evidenced by Baiera’s own 30-year old meeting notes (shown at right).

It’s interesting to note that Baiera jotted these concepts and ideas at least two years after Mego submitted the trademark request for bizarro!

What could this mean?

Bearing in mind that Mego often submitted trademark applications well after a toy was produced (sometimes years later), this could suggest that Bizarro — presuming the trademark referenced the DC Comics character (and what else could it be?!) — had also been considered for the original wave of World’s Greatest Super-Foes!

Surely this is a trick perpetrated by that vengeful, arrogant little bastard imp from the 5th Dimension! (By that I mean Mr. Mxyzptlk, not me. I was about 3 years old when this Queen-Mother-Of-All marketing travesties occurred).

As a collector today, what amuses me is that, had Mego known about the inferior materials they used toward the end of the line — resulting in the dreaded, grey “Zombie” head — they were but a sticker and revised blister card-back away from issuing a Bizarro Superman anyway (below)!

Bizarro

Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the Mego Museum message board (NB: links to a specific thread about this subject). If you’re not already a member of the Mego Museum, now is the perfect time to join!

I have more great blogs lined up for the near future. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

Benjamin

posted in Book Production, Book Status, Copyrights and Trademarks, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Questions, Random Musings, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

23rd February 2008

Mego Mad Monsters: The Creature (From the Black Lagoon)?

We had a lot of fun discussing the mysterious “Webbed-Hand” Aquaman (if you’re interested in Mego’s Aquaman, I encourage you to read the related Mego Museum thread, which is filled with interesting thoughts and ideas, well beyond my original blog), so let’s talk about another web-handed character that Mego considered manufacturing.

You already know this thread is about The Creature, but allow me to set the stage first.

In World’s Greatest Toys, I discuss Mego’s introduction of the term “Official,” an attempt to differentiate Mego products from their competitors’ similar products. Here’s a snippet from the book (page 91, for those reading along):

Mego Ad“With the introduction of the Super-Gals, the toy line received a revised name. “World’s Greatest Super-Heroes” became “Official World’s Greatest Super-Heroes” (the Super-Gals were called “Official World’s Greatest Super-Gals.”) This amendment surely happened as a reaction to other companies’ relentless mimicry of Mego’s licensed properties. Tomland, Lincoln, AHI and Remco (which was acquired by AHI in 1974) were very effective at producing ‘knock-off’ figures. The particularly blatant AHI even issued their “Official World Famous Super Monsters” on blister cards nearly identical to Mego’s 1st Issue card. AHI also issued ersatz Western Heroes and Apes figures, looking to win the proverbial race for second place.

There was little flattery in the shameless imitation by its competitors, and it caused endless grief to Mego executives. But Mego did have a good sense of humor about it. When Mego introduced the Micronauts’ principle ‘bad guy’ character, Mego Director of Design John McNett named him “Baron Karza”. McNett recalled, “Karza is [Mego’s primary competitor Marvin] Azrak spelled backwards. I cooked it up as a joke but Neal and Marty loved it. They quickly trademarked Nivram, Smarba, Nalbuk, Ytram, Laen, and many other backward names to forestall any retaliation from Marvin Azrak.” Records confirm that Mego filed to trademark the name “Baron Karza” on July 21, 1977, then filed to protect the name “Ogem” (’Mego’, backward), on September 1, 1977.

In promoting the Super-Foes, Mego placed comic book ads [shown above] exclaiming, “Look for this emblem for the real thing” next to the new masthead. Inexplicably, the 1st Issue cards for the Super-Foes, released around the same time, do not feature the word “Official”.

Mego did not hesitate to file lawsuits against those who infringed upon their licenses, and doing so apparently solved the problem.”

Between January 1974 and January 1976, Mego submitted paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), in an effort to protect their line of “Mad Monsters” line of characters, including Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy and the Wolfman. Mego created these generic toys without a license from Universal Studios, widely recognized as the Intellectual Property owners of these famous characters. Following are Mego’s USPTO submissions:

Dracula
Frankenstein
Mummy
Wolfman

As discussed in the book, Mego fought a constant battle with competitor Azrak-Hamway, Int’l (also known as AHI, which Mego-Heads pronounce AH-HEE). The struggle is best exemplified by AHI’s “Official World Famous Super Monsters” packaging design, a blatant rip-off of Mego’s 1st Issue blister card design.

AHI Monsters

AHI CreatureI don’t know the exact chronology of Mego and AHI’s respective Monster lines, but given the AHI Monsters’ use of the term “Official,” I’m guessing the AHI Monsters were intentionally designed to mock Mego’s attempts to protect the words “World” and “Super” in the action figure trade. And yes, AHI president Marvin Azrak and Mego president Marty Abrams were mortal enemies on a professional level. They really did ‘duke it out’ in the toy industry…

… a lot.

Throughout the entire 1970s, in fact.

The order in which the Mego and AHI toys were distributed is potentially important, because AHI also created the (particularly rare) “Creature” figure [shown at right].

Why is it an issue? Because Mego submitted — then subsequently abandoned — a fascinating trademark request: The Creature

Mego Creature

I created the ‘artist’s rendtion’ pictured above, by altering a Star Trek “Neptunian” figure (a character Mego invented, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain inhabitant of a certain Black Lagoon). I removed the wings, changed the tunic color and added a “Creature” head from a wholly different toy.

But you get the idea.

So, what’s the deal here?

Did Mego intend to create a fifth character for their Mad Monsters line? Did Mego scrap the idea because AHI beat them to market with the same character? Had Mego already done some development on this toy? If so, did Mego re-work the existing toy into a brand-new Star Trek alien?

Benjamin

posted in Book Status, Copyrights and Trademarks, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Questions, Random Musings, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

21st February 2008

Webbed-Hand Aquaman: Search for Atlantis?

AtlantisOne of the great Mego Mysteries is the origin of Mego’s fascinating and unique “Webbed-Hand” Aquaman figure.

Only one specimen is known to exist today, but the figure (perhaps the same specimen) features prominently in Mego’s own 1978 product catalog, not to mention a hand-drawn appearance in the Fall 1978 “Heroes World” catalog (shown at right).

In both catalogs, the bizarre hands are attached to an 8 inch Mego Aquaman figure, ostensibly sold in conjunction with a battery-operated toy shark, under the title “Aquaman vs. The Great White Shark” (alarmingly, no Webbed-Hand specimens have yet surfaced in “Aquaman vs. The Great White Shark” playsets, to corroborate Mego’s intentions). Mego’s “Aquaman vs. The Great White Shark” is a fascinating toy that continues to garner heated discussion and speculation among collectors.

According to Brian Heiler’s amazing interview with Mego artist Vinny Baiera, the concept of underwater-themed toys came up several times during 1977/1978 production meetings, as evidenced by Baiera’s own 30-year old meeting notes:

Vinny Baiera

Note the highlighted areas, including references to TV’s “Man from Atlantis,” (DC’s) Aquaman and (Marvel’s) Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner.

I discuss this subject in World’s Greatest Toys! several times, including the Aquaman chapter:

Aquaman

And here is yet another Mego factoid to confound the issue: A mysterious United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) submission from Mego: “Search for Atlantis”

With a Filing Date of November 4, 1976, Mego claimed a ‘First Use’ date of July 26, 1976 (falsely, since it was never produced), under the category of “Dolls, Doll Clothing, Playsets and Equipment Sold as a Unit for Playing a Game.”

Even more interesting is the trademark citation, “Registered November 29, 1977,” which places the mysterious toy well within the chronological boundaries established by Mego’s 1978 distribution of their “Aquaman vs. The Great White Shark” playset.

Atlantis

Does this USPTO submission have anything to do with Mego’s mysterious “Webbed-Hand” Aquaman figure? Does it explain Mego’s creation of a strange, battery-operated Shark? Or does it simply corroborate the fact that Mego was interested in underwater themes at the time? Feel free to post your thoughts and comments on the Mego Museum message board (NB: links to a specific thread about this subject). If you’re not already a member of the Mego Museum, now is the perfect time to join!

I have several similar blogs lined up for the near future. Until then, I’ll see you on the boards!

Benjamin

posted in Book Status, Copyrights and Trademarks, Mego Corporation, Mego Memories, Mego Questions, Random Musings, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), World's Greatest Toys | Comments Off

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